Me? Think too much? Nah…
I visited some clients of my wife’s the other day who have the most incredible garden. Apart from the fact they bought and renovated a twelfth century castle here in the west of France (which is a big feat) the most impressive thing is the garden around it.
The castle itself was a wreck with pig sheds tacked onto it by centuries of farmers whose priorities didn’t reside in the history or beauty of the site but, well, with their pigs I guess. Once all of the rickety iron and rusty machines were cleared out the castle needed serious work by serious tradesmen and all of that is nice for the before and after photos but the real treasure is the amount of work required to create the gardens which surround the four sides of the castle.
The owners created the gardens themselves. With no help. With no prior knowledge. And with a total unconsciousness which allowed them to plunge into a project which has taken a lifetime. Waterfalls, hedgerows, hidden benches and sculptures, mazes, rivers, ponds, swimming pools, vegetables, vines, lawn mown so cleanly you could vacuum it…it’s really impossible to describe the gardens but it takes about an hour to do the loop.
So, I asked the lady of the house what her and her husband were thinking before starting out and she looked at me with amusement and said – “If we had started thinking we wouldn’t have started the garden at all.”
There you go. How much does thinking really help and how much does it hold you back? How many times have you thought about that room which needs painting before anticipating the scale of the job and feeling a wave of fatigue and by some miracle finding something else (preferably less labor intensive) which needs doing?
Some smart cookie called Loran Nordgren at The Kellogg School of Management is asking this question – “What is consciousness good for?” What he is coming up with is a difference in thought structure which affect our decision making capacity.
Explained Nordgren, “Conscious thought is like a spotlight on a decision. It illuminates very brightly, but only a particular, narrow aspect of the problem. It has very limited processing capacity. Unconscious thought, on the other hand, is more like a child’s night light, casting a dim light on the entire decision space without focusing in on any one particular thing.”
It’s a neat article and in a context where analytical thinking in business has taken a kick in the gut (“Oops we didn’t see a world financial crisis coming but have a look at these super graphs we made”), sometimes there is virtue in plunging into the unknown and coming out the other end with something unexpected.